This is a guest post by Julie Neidlinger.
What does “better” mean, anyway?
It means that somewhere between point A and point B, you see measurable improvement. You don’t want to stay where you started. You don’t want to slide backwards. Clearly, you want to get better. Where is your blog at today?
How do we measure better?
Measuring if something is “better” seems subjective, but that isn’t completely so. There are ways to determine if improvement is happening with specific measurements as well as by reasoned comparisons.
What The Numbers Are Saying
For a quantified measurement, you can tell if your blog is better using numbers. When it comes to blogging, numbers mean traffic and social media metrics. For those numbers to be meaningful, there are two considerations to keep in mind:
1. Consistent data.Using numbers to determine improvement requires a consistent data pool to compare to. You can’t use numbers if you aren’t monitoring stats early on.
2. Consistent goals. You have to know what you’re looking for in those numbers. Having a pile of data that you don’t know how to interpret is overwhelming.
In order to spot trends, you need a pool of data, and so it is best to set up analytics tools sooner rather than later. It will take several months of data to begin seeing weekly patterns, and a year’s worth of data to have yearly patterns. If you haven’t already done so, consider using Google Analytics (or any other stats system) right away.
Large amounts of numbers won’t help you if you don’t know how to interpret them. Additionally, you may not want to track everything that your analytics provider offers you. Perhaps you just want to find out which days of the week your traffic is highest, and how much of it is direct traffic. Or maybe you want to track your blog’s bounce rate, but aren’t concerned about what country your visitors are from. Set up a spreadsheet where you can fill in the data for those specific goals for each week or month.
While your analytics software will still collect all of the other information, this spreadsheet allows you to focus on specific data, track it, and easily see progress or find answers. It will also help you get familiar with the analytics program itself and learn to understand it better.
A blog that is getting better will reveal increased traffic and a decreased bounce rate. You’ll see increased activity on your social media properties and referral traffic from such sites. Is your blog showing this kind of improvement?
What Your Email List Is Saying
Your email list should be growing. If you’ve set one up, and made the call to action very clear — even offering free downloads or something similar in exchange for an email address — you will see it continue to grow. Your increasingly better blog posts will bring in traffic, which feeds to your email list if your content is excellent. Sharing that same content to the list should grow it further and turn your audience into super fans.
Is your email list growing? Are they participating actively when you give them a call to action? Or are they unsubscribing?
What Your Writing Is Saying
Early blog writing can be painful to go back and read. Most writers find that the practice of writing creates tighter writing, with less rambling with a propensity to get to the point quicker. You stop over-explaining as you grow your confidence, moving past those initial and limiting fears of having your thoughts published for the world to see aside.
How you approach a topic, if you’ve been writing for an extended period of time, will change. You’ll express your opinions differently, and you’ll discover that the act of writing about your favorite topics actually helps you understand them better. A blog that has gotten better is one with a steady and seasoned voice, one that approaches its subject matter with confidence.
This doesn’t happen in the first post or the first week; this only happens over time. It happens after you realize you must push yourself beyond what you’re comfortable writing about, and challenge your approach to your favorite topics.
Do you see an improvement in tone and quality when it comes to your writing? Or do you find that you are repetitive, leaning heavily on clichés, or still stuck in the early stages of formative thinking?
A new blog is characterized by too broad a focus, because you haven’t quite fine-tuned the focus of the blog yet. As time passes and you continue blogging, you start to hear your growing audience, realize what they want to read, and adjust accordingly. It never works to write outside of your interest just to please the largest common denominator, but within your knowledge and interest, you’ll find your audience helping you fine-tune your focus.
Is your blog feeling focused? Can you describe what it’s about in one sentence, or is it still a bit muddled and broad?
What Your Readers Are Saying
New blogs are marked by an echo chamber feeling. There are few comments at the start, because the audience isn’t quite there yet. It’s a discouraging time for some writers, but as you’ve hopefully discovered, that changes. As a blog continues, readers start showing up and start participating. You can gauge your blog’s growth, for the better, by our reader’s reactions.
Active Comments Section
While there will always be the faithful reader who prefers to read and not comment, a healthy blog that’s been around for a while will have an active comments section. Why? Because a “healthy” blog is one where the writing stirs its readers to comment and take part in the conversation. A “healthy” blog is one filled with posts that are written in a way that encourage questions, that ask questions, that don’t always tie every post up in a tidy and concluded package.
Do your readers leave intriguing comments? Do they leave any comments at all?
Maybe your readers aren’t commenting on your blog because they’re sharing it on their social networks and the conversation is happening there.
Readers should be sharing your blog. Hopefully, you’re providing quick-share links on each post, and can do some tracking on how often this is happening. All the quick-share links in the world, however, won’t convince someone to share a post that isn’t compelling.
Do you see your posts getting shared? Do you see traffic coming back to your blog from social media networks?
What if your blog isn’t better?
Should you pull the plug? The honest answers to three questions will help you decide.
1. Do I have time to blog? The truth is, most blogs wither away in three months. Ideas fade, motivation slides, and other things crowd out your reasons to blog. We make time for what is important, and if it isn’t your blog, then no. You won’t ever have time.
2. Do I have the discipline to blog? After the ease of the first few posts and ideas, you will probably hit a roadblock. There are ways to get past it, and to the really great original writing that waits for you, but they take work and if you don’t feel you have the discipline to press on, be honest.
3. Do I even want to blog? Despite the very real benefits of having a blog, you shouldn’t have started one in the first place. Perhaps you were sold on it by an outside consultant but the reality of it is that you want the benefits but don’t want the work. If you started it in hopes of a quick SEO fix with no intention of providing your audience with quality content, maybe blogging isn’t for you.
If you answered “no” to any of the questions, it’s time to either stop blogging, set up a team blog, or work with a writer to help you create the content you need for your blog. Remember, though, that no one knows what you know about your business or your brand like you do. There’s no substitution for your knowledge.